I’ve been asked a couple times now to give a more detailed and less derisive reason for being so adamantly opposed to proposition 100. This is a fair request and deserves a fair response. I have four points I’d like to make about why this proposed law should fail, but sadly will likely pass. First, taxation is an act of aggression. Second, a “sales” tax, or more accurately, a “transaction”, or even a better term, “consumption” tax is especially oppressive. Third, the proposition is contrary to what we know about sound economic principles. And finally, I have a profound fear that the need is not genuine and the revenue will not be used in the manner espoused.
My last point is the weakest of my arguments, but I believe of greatest concern to the general audience, so I will start there. Arizona Treasurer, Dean Martin, has said he had been cautioning the previous state government, and the current one, on the looming budget crises to no avail. Neither the Democratic executive, nor the Republican legislature curbed their fiscal behavior. Also, Mr. Martin has said that he proposed a plan to restructure and refinance the state’s deficit that would require no cuts to education or health services. Apparently, Governor Brewer ignores the Treasurer’s advice as often as her predecessor. Rumor has it that the legislature proposed an even 10% cut across the board, but Governor Brewer adamantly dismissed this notion and headed straight to an attack on education. Then, while the public school lobby was rocked back on their heels as the first special interest denied to suckle on the State’s tit, the Governor champions this attack on the general public as the only hope to save our children. And while this political campaign rages, the Governor has dismissed oversight committees whose jobs it to make sure those in power do with our money what they are supposed to. Will the teacher in the classroom, much less any student, see any benefit from the three billion dollars it is estimated that the tax will generate? I am skeptical.
The economics of the issue is a stronger argument, but rarely influences the public or deters them from their wants. We have today in our culture a buy it now mentality and figure out how to pay for it later. Democracy may be the worst form of government because, as Caesar discovered, the public will tolerate any kind of tyranny as long as you provide them bread and circuses. We are in a recession. A recession, by definition, is a reduction of transaction. A transaction tax deters transactions (cause), which will deepen and prolong our economic blight (effect). It is kind of a science thing. If you know and understand the physical laws surrounding gravity, why strap on a cape and insist, like a mystic, that for this important cause, you can fly? I think it’s just nuts.
The next two points rest on moral arguments, but this one is still connected to economic theory. A French philosopher, whose name I am now forgetting, once wrote that Americans have the morality of an army on the march. The observation has always stuck with me because I see it proved true time and again. In war, an objective must be met no matter the method or casualty and slogans and all sorts of rhetoric are used to glorify the objective and demonize the obstacles. Whether you agree, or not, that all taxation is a vice, there is little room to argue that a consumption (sales) tax is inequitable. The wealthiest amongst us have more choices than the poorest. Those hardest hit by our economic woes spend all they earn; they have no wealth; they consume it all just to survive. These are the people upon which most of this burden will be placed; on the unemployed and underemployed. The family that spends every weekend at the AutoZone buying parts to keep the family wreck running is the casualty of this conflict. I don’t see how this proposition helps children when it demands (and not figuratively) that the child’s family be deprived one month’s groceries in a thirty-six month period. I think maybe a few administrators can go before milk.
I think my last point matters least to most people, but is of primary concern to me. I may not be able to offer a valid moral argument, being as morality is subjective, but to say a moral argument is weak is dangerous ground. Many may think we are less religious or mystical than our predecessors, but I think our faith has shifted from a belief in God(s) to a belief in government and we fail to see it for what it is really. The state arises out of conquest and confiscation. It is a beast of war and subjugation. It is not benign or benevolent and we are not the government. Some may also say that taxes are the price we pay for living in a civilization; that it is patriotic to pay our taxes. Of course this is only a prayer of mystics, offered at the altar of the state, in hopes the state will care for us and love us. Taxation and slavery arise in history at approximately the same time as the state. Both are functions of the state and they are merely different species of the same genus. Some of us embrace the arrangement of slavery. Others of us are more moderate and call for the gradual reduction of enslavement. I am an abolitionist and call for its immediate end. On these grounds, I can never support any tax, even if the argument for the need is otherwise persuasive.
Now… rhetoric, rather than reason, is the language of the public and democracy, so I will congratulate you in advance on your victory in this campaign. It is not that I necessarily believe a minority is opposed to this assault. It is that those who are in favor have the power to win this battle; a spoiled special interest addicted to slave labor and, more importantly, the government herself. This is one of those cases where the right of the “secret” ballot becomes most import; the secrecy of the counting of those ballots that is. I do not disagree that our children are important. My children are most important to me. That is why I pay for their needs, including education. Perhaps parents should quit shirking their responsibilities and start paying for their kids rather than reaching in other’s pockets.